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Giant Spider attacks Liverpool
February 7, 2009 10:24 AM   Subscribe

"As part of Liverpool's Capital of Culture year, the French group La Machine were commissioned to create a large piece of street theatre, on the scale of their earlier work, the Sultan's Elephant. Many were expecting to see something using the iconic Liverbirds, the symbol of the city but instead we got a spider." We also got some amazing photographs from Peter Carr of the gorgeously monstrous 37-ton, 50-foot arachnid.
posted by storybored (30 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
That spider is some serious fucking business, holy shit. Jesus.

Thanks for posting this.
posted by voltairemodern at 10:37 AM on February 7, 2009


50 feet long, 37 tonnes, 13 people operating it. Awesome.
posted by jouke at 10:40 AM on February 7, 2009


That thing is the stuff of nightmares.

It's too bad they couldn't do a better job of hiding the hydraulics under the shell, though.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:43 AM on February 7, 2009


Yeah, this would be me.
posted by katillathehun at 10:49 AM on February 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's too bad they couldn't do a better job of hiding the hydraulics under the shell, though.

I learned something when I helped a theatre troupe put on Peter Pan a few years ago. We decided to not hide the flying wires too carefully, and were rewarded with great reviews! If you try to make everything look real people will expect a perfect illusion, and they're rudely awakened when you come even a little bit short. If, instead, you make the trick visible and honest, people accept it readily, and suspend their disbelief.

The spider is a giant puppet. Of course she has the hydraulic equivalent of a giant hand inside, but we're OK with that because she puts on a convincing act.
posted by Popular Ethics at 10:53 AM on February 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


You know it doesn't actually walk, right? Just checking...


It *is* a cool piece of theatre, and good that it gets not just Liverpool but the Capital of Culture some deserved publicity.


If you try to make everything look real people will expect a perfect illusion, and they're rudely awakened when you come even a little bit short. If, instead, you make the trick visible and honest, people accept it readily, and suspend their disbelief.

Kinda like the uncanny valley of illusionry? Neat idea.
posted by Sova at 10:57 AM on February 7, 2009


Fuck yeah, giant robot spiders!

Man, I love living in the future some times.
posted by lekvar at 11:06 AM on February 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Previously
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:34 AM on February 7, 2009


Anyone know where I can get some of that magic snow?
posted by Sailormom at 11:39 AM on February 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Those photos are the best I've seen of the event! Thanks for the link.

I was visiting Liverpool not long after the spider, so bummed I missed it.
posted by ericthegardener at 11:46 AM on February 7, 2009


If, instead, you make the trick visible and honest, people accept it readily, and suspend their disbelief.

I have a strong preference for this sort of presentation. I've discussed it with some of the people I know that do sideshow and circus arts, but no one seems to know a name for this aesthetic. Is there one? Or is it time to start brainstorming?

Also, Uncanny Valley of Illusionry is so my new band name.
posted by Benjamin Nushmutt at 11:57 AM on February 7, 2009


If, instead, you make the trick visible and honest...

There's also a kind of artistry in making the trick happen that you wouldn't be able to appreciate if you can't actually see the trick. If this was flawless and invisible it wouldn't be half as cool as it is.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:08 PM on February 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Does Mark Pauline get to destroy it as a grand finale?
posted by Tube at 12:12 PM on February 7, 2009


You know it doesn't actually walk, right?

Whoa, how shit is that? Now I'm glad I didn't bother to go and watch it. The rest of my family went, and they were all convinced that they'd seen the spider walking, but having just seen this YouTube clip, I would have felt completely ripped off.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:31 PM on February 7, 2009


Really does seem like shooting jets of water into a big crowd would be best suited for summertime.
posted by DenOfSizer at 12:47 PM on February 7, 2009


Its cousin is already here in Nevada.
posted by lalochezia at 12:58 PM on February 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


This was a great production and I'm so bummed I was out of town when it happened. Pete Carr's photos are genius.

While not as good as Pete's, but keeping with the spiders in Liverpool theme, here are my pics of the spider currently perched in the web in Exchange Flags.
posted by triggerfinger at 12:59 PM on February 7, 2009


what they need to do is get together with these guys and really up the scare factor on that baby with the whirring and the crashing into buildings etc. then we'll finally be ahead in the mecha race.
posted by doobiedoo at 1:26 PM on February 7, 2009


Outside of the giant spider, this may be my favourite contribution to Liverpool's year as Capital of Culture.

It certainly beats some attempts at public art in Liverpool like those hideous inflatable flowers they put in the station or the time Yoko Ono filled the high street with genitalia.
posted by the latin mouse at 1:26 PM on February 7, 2009


I have a strong preference for this sort of presentation. I've discussed it with some of the people I know that do sideshow and circus arts, but no one seems to know a name for this aesthetic. Is there one? Or is it time to start brainstorming?

It's the difference between mimesis and simulation. Mimesis is about representation "as if" inviting people to suspend their disbelief, simulation is about trying to be as realistic as possible and always involves an anxiety of not being real enough. It's like the difference between chess whose abstraction allows people to invest their imagination in what the different pieces, moves and strategies can mean, anything from historical re enactment to sexual subtext, and computer games which are never real enough despite much more sophisticated visualisation.
posted by doobiedoo at 1:33 PM on February 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


also, did they make it crawl out of this?
posted by doobiedoo at 1:36 PM on February 7, 2009


> this YouTube clip

the beginning of which--creature's forelegs are discovered coming from behind building--that moment right there is, according to my copy of the shooting script anyway, the very moment that Something Goes Wrong (Gaspard: Mon Dieu, Pierre, vous avez apporté la vraie araignée, non la mécanique! Pierre: BWAAAHAAHAAHAA! Let ze English pig-dogs laugh at La France after zis!) and the rest of the clip consists of a human wave of panicked people charging the camera, while over their heads we can see spider lifting screaming victim #1 up to its fangs and grasping victims #2 and #3 in other legs (for later.) Then the leading edge of the panicked mob reaches the camera and it goes black.
posted by jfuller at 1:42 PM on February 7, 2009


Neat! It's like a subtle, understated version of Cirque du Soleil.
posted by LMGM at 3:18 PM on February 7, 2009


Its cousin is already here in Nevada.
posted by lalochezia


Haha, I like it when the random nekkid chick ambles by in that video. Adds to the surrealism.
posted by Windigo at 3:42 PM on February 7, 2009


I went to Liverpool on the last day and watched her final walk around the city centre at night, and it was wonderful. You don't really notice 'the wires' and support equipment, or the puppeteers. What you see seems real and alive, with personality, but so alien it's hard to accept it's actually there, walking through the crowds. (The crowds conveniently hide most of the workings).

At one point La Princesse had moved away around a corner, and a large part of the crowd (including us) decided to rush down various streets to get around the block and watch her approach from the other side. We passed a group of people traveling towards the railway station, dragging suitcases, who looked rather taken aback at the flood of adults and children running past them wide-eyed, shouting about giant spiders.

The people riding La Princesse were exceptionally brave: the spider was 'asleep' high on the side of a building. They abseiled down to it and got into their seats (turned sideways) while it was still up there, then came down with it as the crane swung it into position, animating it as it was lowered.

The atmosphere in the crowd was great, the music was good, it was genuinely an unreal, magical experience. I might have cried a bit at the end.
posted by BinaryApe at 3:47 PM on February 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


(and I may as well link to my less impressive photos too.)
posted by BinaryApe at 3:52 PM on February 7, 2009


This is amazing. Beautifully useless.
posted by jcruelty at 4:08 PM on February 7, 2009


Exposing the innards just makes it obvious what a bogglingly complex beast it is. There's actually more to admire when you can see hydraulics and frantic operators. To me, to the extent that they clash with the beatiful sculpted parts, they actually enhance it.

As a recovering arachnophobe, it makes it easier to deal with too.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 4:19 PM on February 7, 2009


Yeah, showing the hydraulics makes it better and by "better" I mean "HOLY CRAP I'M ABOUT TO BE KILLED BY AN ENORMOUS HYDRAULIC SPIDER!!!"
posted by DU at 5:20 PM on February 7, 2009


As a recovering arachnophobe, it makes it easier to deal with too.

Second that. I prefer my humongous spiders not to be too realistic, thank you very much.
posted by Skeptic at 9:43 AM on February 8, 2009


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